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Food Worker Experiences with and Beliefs about Working While Ill

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Transmission of foodborne pathogens from ill food workers to diners in restaurants is an important cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that food workers with vomiting or diarrhea (symptoms of foodborne illness) be excluded from work. To understand the experiences and characteristics of workers who work while ill, workplace interviews were conducted with 491 food workers from 391 randomly selected restaurants in nine states that participated in the Environmental Health Specialists Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 60% of workers recalled working while ill at some time. Twenty percent of workers said that they had worked while ill with vomiting or diarrhea for at least one shift in the previous year. Factors significantly related to workers having said that they had worked while ill with vomiting or diarrhea were worker sex, job responsibilities, years of work experience, concerns about leaving coworkers short staffed, and concerns about job loss. These findings suggest that the decision to work while ill with vomiting or diarrhea is complex and multifactorial.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Tennessee Department of Health, Nashville, Tennessee 37243, USA; Mennonite Central Committee, 47 Rhapta Road, P.O. Box 14894, Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya 2: Tennessee Department of Health, Nashville, Tennessee 37243, USA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Office of Public Health Science, Butler Square West, Suite 420-C, 100 North 6th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55403, USA 3: California Emerging Infections Program, Oakland, California 94612, USA 4: California Environmental Health Specialists Network, Public Health Foundation Enterprises, Richmond, California 91746, USA; Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, 1131 Harbor Bay Parkway, 2nd Floor, Alameda, CA 94502, USA 5: Georgia Department of Public Health, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, USA 6: Minnesota Department of Health, Mankato, Minnesota 56001, USA 7: Rhode Island Department of Health, Providence, Rhode Island 02908, USA 8: New York State Department of Health, Albany, New York 12180, USA 9: Minnesota Department of Health, St. Paul, Minnesota 55164, USA; National Center for Food Protection and Defense, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA 10: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA. 11: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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